After a disappointing first round, Rory McIlroy rocketed into contention with a second-round 64 at The Players Championship.
The Northern Irishman's opening 72 left him a whopping nine shots off the pace set by Jason Day on the opening day of the tournament, but he now finds himself eight shots better off after becoming only the second player to cover the back-nine at TPC Sawgrass in 29 strokes – just one day after Shane Lowry became the first.
McIlroy will probably be slightly disappointed with his finish, however. Nine under par for the day through 15, he could only play his last three holes in one over par.
That included a closing bogey after he duffed his pitch and missed a par putt at the par-5 ninth.
He admitted afterwards he regretted not going for the green in two.
"I've got it in my head with the ninth hole that any time that I have gone for the green it has not really worked out for me," McIlroy told Sky Sports. "I had a good number today and laid up with a nine iron.
"I probably had two iron to the front of the green. In hindsight, with that pin being on the left side, anywhere on the right I probably had a chance to get up and down. I thought get it within 100 yards and take my chances from there and just didn't hit a great third shot and left myself in a difficult position."
Nevertheless, today's performance marks the second time in three rounds that McIlroy has gotten seriously hot, following his closing eight-birdie 66 at the Wells Fargo Championship last week.
McIlroy's putter also caught fire. He holed a 25-footer on the 10th, and an incredible 55-foot monster from the left fringe on the 16th – encouraging signs for a player winless so far in 2016.
"I was going well and it would have been nice to make a four on the last, but 64 is still a great score and hopefully I'm not going to be too far behind going into the weekend," he added.
"I hit a lot of quality shots today. I feel like my game has been under control the last four rounds so hopefully I can continue like that over the weekend."
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